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'I have so many ideas running around ... so it's nice to have an outlet for them'

Henry Holland gained a reputation in the Noughties with his Fashion Groupies T-shirts, before starting his own design house. He tells Prudence Wade why it's important to have a sense of humour in his industry

Fashion guru: Henry Holland with a model wearing his pyjamas
Fashion guru: Henry Holland with a model wearing his pyjamas
Henry with best friend Agyness Deyn

The fashion industry doesn't have the most welcoming reputation and designers rarely seem the kind of people that you'd have a laugh down the pub with.

This is not the case with Henry Holland. He became famous in the Noughties for his cheeky slogan T-shirts and since then has built a global megabrand with the House of Holland.

Once an industry disruptor, Holland is now more of a veteran.

Even though fashion can be unforgiving, he's managed to keep his sense of humour - both in his personality and his designs.

We caught up with the big-quiffed designer to find out about his path into fashion and how the industry has evolved.

Coming from Ramsbottom

There's a certain school of British designers with the same background - London-born, they attend a prestigious fashion school and then rise through the ranks. Holland's path was far less conventional.

"I grew up in a place called Ramsbottom, where careers in fashion aren't really known," Holland says with a giggle. "I had no idea there was a fashion industry until I moved to London."

Even if he didn't quite know the mechanics, Holland was sure fashion was the place for him. "Growing up I loved the way fashion made me feel differently - the way I dressed, the way I presented myself," he explains.

Getting his own qualifications

Holland made his way to London any way he could - and it wasn't originally through fashion.

"Sticking out a journalism degree was probably the best thing I ever did because it made me so proactive," Holland says. "I set about trying to create my own set of fashion qualifications through internships and assisting jobs - I basically worked for anyone who had 'fashion' in their job title."

Not only did this make Holland a seriously hard grafter, it also gave him a different perspective on the industry.

"I stumbled into teen magazines, which means I now understand the importance of the public facing side of fashion and how important it is to get my work out there," he explains.

"I definitely have a commercial brain - certain designers really loathe press and see it as a necessary evil, but because I came through that avenue, I don't think that."

It's all about authenticity

Holland soon exploded onto the scene with his rhyming graphic slogan T-shirts referencing famous fashion faces. They're instantly recognisable with taglines like 'I'll show you who's boss Kate Moss' and 'Get your freak on Giles Deacon'.

"They were really well received at the time because people could see the authenticity," Holland says. "The minute this industry feels like someone's trying to hoodwink them in any way, they immediately call b*******."

Holland's designs were extensions of his personality and he shot his first campaign with childhood best friend Agyness Deyn.

"I was from the lowest of the low echelons of the fashion industry, from teen magazines, but I had these fun T-shirts and I wasn't trying to be anything I wasn't," Holland says. "That's why it worked.

"In hindsight, there were loads of other things that helped - for example, it was the perfect opportunity for the fashion industry to show that they have a sense of humour and they can poke fun at themselves, which was very much needed at that point in time."

Over a decade later, the designs are still going strong.

"They became a bit like a band T-shirt or a football shirt for the fashion industry - you could wear a designer's name emblazoned across you for £50, without having to spend £3,000 on one of their dresses," says Holland.

"They were great ideas," he adds. "But that was never what I set out to do.

"It was literally just something I thought was really fun and wanted to wear myself."

The fast-paced nature of designing

Just because Holland consistently puts out fresh, exciting designs, doesn't mean it's always smooth sailing - he too is subject to the non-stop nature of the industry. "Some days I really thrive on the fast pace of fashion because I have so many ideas running around my brain, so it's nice to have any outlet for them," he explains.

"But at other times, I feel like I'm on the verge of a breakdown and need to go lie down in a darkened room."

Holland gets through it by trying his best to create a positive attitude in the studio and keeping it as real as possible.

"It's important to keep reminding ourselves that we have an outlet for our creativity, and that is a massively privileged position," he explains.

"Our brand is built on a fun and playful attitude, so we need to approach designing with the same vigour that we want people to buy our collections with."

How fashion has changed

"I think the fashion industry has definitely got better at laughing at itself," Holland reflects. "Designers used to want to be seen as exclusive, so they seemed more high end. Social media has changed that - people actually want to know there's a personality behind the face.

"People are buying into you as a person as much as they are your designs.

"You need to look like you're a laugh to be around, because no one wants to spend time following someone who's really boring and dry."

Luckily for Holland, he's just as fun in real life as he is on Instagram.

St-Germain x House of Holland 'Sleep When You're Dead' limited edition silk pyjamas are available at

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